A Textbook Case on U.S. Health Care

BOISE (CN) – After leaving his family in Minnesota to pack up their possessions and sell the house, Bradley Kilburn moved to Idaho to accept a job as manager for a fire protection company. But when his new boss found that Kilburn’s wife had been diagnosed with MS, he fired him and told him to go back to Minnesota, saying his wife would make “insurance costs … go ‘through the roof,'” Kilburn says in a federal complaint.

     Kilburn seeks costs and punitive damages from Fire Services of Idaho, for discrimination and violations of ERISA, the ADA, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, and Idaho human rights law.
     Kilburn says he left his wife and daughter in Forest Lake, Minn., to move to Pocatello and work for Fire Services, which offered him a company car, relocation package and health benefits, in addition to his $60,000 salary. He was hired to be its fire alarm department manager. He began work in Pocatello on Sept. 23, 2010.
     Kilburn says that on Oct. 15, the day company owner John Holman gave him his first paycheck, he brought along “Steve Long, a representative of Fire Services’s health insurance provider, Allegis Financial Partners, to meet with Kilburn to enroll Kilburn and his family in Fire Services’s insurance plan.”
     Kilburn says Long helped him fill out the paperwork and “assured Kilburn he would keep the information confidential and then took the paperwork and left.”
     The complaint continues: Kilburn’s wife, Jennifer Kilburn (‘Jennifer’) had previously been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (‘MS’), an autoimmune disease. Kilburn discussed his wife’s MS with Mr. Long.
     “A short time after Mr. Long left Kilburn’s office, Holman came into Kilburn’s office and stated that he had been told by another employee that Kilburn’s wife had MS.
     Holman proceeded to explain that because of Jennifer’s MS, the group rating for Fire
     Services was going to skyrocket and everyone’s insurance costs would go ‘through the roof.'”
     “Holman stated to Kilburn that they would need to come up with a different way to get insurance because ‘this wouldn’t work.’ Holman later stated to Kilburn that Kilburn needed to call the movers on Monday and put the moving truck on hold.
     “At approximately 4:15 p.m. that same day, Jennifer and Kilburn’s daughter arrived in Pocatello to spend the weekend house hunting. Kilburn intended to return to Minnesota to help in the final moving preparations with his wife and daughter.
     “The next day, October 16, 2010, Holman directed Kilburn, via text message, to return to Minnesota instead of working the following week. Kilburn had offered to send his family home and he would stay and work so they could resolve the issue, but Holman directed Kilburn to return to Minnesota.
     “On or about October 26, 2010, Fire Services terminated Kilburn’s employment because of its concerns related to increased insurance costs associated with his wife’s MS. …
     “Fire Services’ termination of Kilburn occurred under circumstances raising a reasonable inference or as direct evidence that Kilburn’s wife’s disability was the determining factor in terminating Kilburn’s employment with Fire Services. …
     “Fire Services’s conduct was malicious and oppressive and done with reckless disregard for Kilburn’s federally protected rights.”
     Kilburn is represented by DeAnne Casperson with Holden, Kidwell, Hahn & Crapo, of Idaho Falls.

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